How Pivotal’s Salomé Mortazavi gets work done

4 min read
Shayna Hodkin
  •  Nov 1, 2019
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Salomé is the global lead of Pivotal Labs’ design workstream. Outside of the workstream, Salomé manages a team of designers in Seattle and helps Fortune 500 companies transform and scale their products and teams through Agile user-centered design practices. To learn more, you can download their Pivotal Field Guide.

Name: Salomé Mortazavi

Title: Manager, Product Design/Design Workstream Lead

Company: Pivotal

Location: Seattle, Washington

Age: Old enough to know better

Years in the design industry: 15+


Her career path, as shown in one sketch

Walking through her toolkit

These days I don’t spend a lot of time in typical design tools, but when I do, you can find me in:

On inspiration

When I’m trying to solve a tough problem, I take a bath and capture ideas on post-its. I have a whole book of ideas and thoughts that came from these bath sessions.

Design Thinking Handbook

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On the best parts of being a manager

There’s two: the impact I can have on someone’s life, and the fulfillment that comes from being able to support them on their journey.

On staying organized

I write down my to-do list and break it down to these categories:

  • Now (today)
  • Near (this week)
  • Future (1-6 months)

I also prioritize each column and put a checkbox beside each item. Nothing feels better than checking something off my list.

On bouncing back from failure

I try to always ask myself, “What else could this mean?” Failure, much like any other emotion, is a feeling that you associate with an event. By asking this question you allow yourself the opportunity to see the lesson. I know we’ve all heard this a lot, but I truly believe life is your teacher and failures are valuable lessons.

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On the advice she would give…

  1. Before starting your first design job. To be successful as a designer, you need to understand the business side and be able to speak the language of your stakeholders and building relationships with other disciplines. By doing this, you can play an active role in the product strategy instead of being brought in to make something look pretty.
  2. Before becoming a manager. To create an atmosphere where your team is inspired, motivated, productive, and creative, it’s important to understand the individuals that make up your team. Each person is different, with their unique process and needs. This way you can adapt your approach to bring out the best in each person.
  3. About becoming a mentor. It’s critical to be honest and ready to give constructive feedback. As a mentor, it’s your job to identify gaps and to say things that others might not feel comfortable to say. This helps the other person to grow and know where to spend their time.
  4. About life. It’s all about people. Everything in life ultimately comes down to a human. If you move through life with empathy and curiosity you will be able to build authentic relationships that help you along your path and take you in unexpected directions.

The designers Salomé thinks you should be watching

  1. Megan Taylor, UX designer
  2. Andreas Eiken, Staff Product Designer at Pivotal Labs
  3. Alexander Tran, Designer at Pivotal Labs
  4. Moe Bonneau, author, illustrator, and designer
  5. Becki Hyde, UX designer

Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard